The sculpture "One Day in Brown County" by artist Carrie Roy
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They’ve traveled 1,000 miles across Wisconsin, drawing attention to important issues affecting the quality and supply of our state’s water.

Now, four sculptures by renowned artist Carrie Roy are headed for the next stage in their adventure: They’re for sale.

It all started in 2014 when Roy and Kate Golden, then-multimedia-director for the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism, hatched the idea of collaborating on an art project. They wanted to help visualize the data emerging from Golden’s reporting on water issues in a physical, tangible way.

“I often uncover disturbing statistics that stick with me,” Golden wrote about the project. “A reader normally might pass by them in the story in a second. Carrie makes them into physical objects that a person can touch and linger over.”

WCIJ multimedia director Kate Golden explains the significance of the cow-shaped art piece “A Day in Brown County” to an audience at Great Northern Distilling in Plover, Wisconsin on May 7, 2015. The exhibit was part of the “Investigative Reporting + Art” tour put on by Carrie Roy and WCIJ.

The Sculptures

One Day in Brown County

Material: American black walnut procured from a retired dairy farmer in Mazomanie, Wisconsin

Dimensions: 28 inches x 34 inches x 57 inches
(That’s almost five feet tall and close to three feet wide. This is a LIFE-SIZED cow folks!)

What does this piece represent?
Brown County has the largest “cow to cropland ratio” in Wisconsin, totaling a half-cow per acre. Roy’s life-sized structure stands on a platform that portrays the volume of manure produced by a single cow in one day. More cows and shrinking farmland means more risk that manure may be over-applied to fields, leach into groundwater, and taint drinking water supplies.

The construction:
Roy used a computer to model the cow in 3-D, which she used as a guide to assemble the cow slice-by-slice. She then shaped, refined and sanded the rough shape into the smooth, glossy sculpture. Check out a video of her working on the cow here.

Trout Stream

Material: Felt, the majority locally sourced from Wisconsin

Dimensions: 36 inches x 12 inches x 3 inches

What does this piece represent?
Wisconsin’s iconic brook trout face dramatic population losses over the next century under current climate change scenarios, as the cold streams where they live warm up. Up to 95 percent of their habitat could be lost by 2050.

The construction:
Roy used Norse felting techniques to combine the trout’s brilliant colors with the shape and waves of stream water. A slice from the main piece suggests the small amount of habitat that will be left, while the fuzz of the felt evokes the uncertainty of scientists’ projections.

Well Water: 2:1

Birdseye maple from eastern Wisconsin; American black walnut from Mazomanie; farm faucet

Dimensions: 10 inches x 10 inches x 48 inches tall

What does this piece represent?
This piece is one-­third dark walnut and two-­thirds light maple — representing the one-­third of Wisconsin’s private wells that are estimated to contain pesticides. The wooden pedestal is rippled to evoke flowing water. Well testing in Wisconsin is rare — a survey showed only 16 percent of owners test their private wells annually.

The construction:
“I wanted to evoke the familiar ritual of approaching a faucet to fill a cup and being confronted with the statistic of one in three wells being contaminated,” said Roy. “American black walnut is toxic when you first cut into it, so I felt it was an appropriate material to convey this concerning statistic.”

Daily Bovine

Materials: American black walnut from Mazomanie; 1,000 wool balls

Dimensions: 8 feet, 9 inches x 7 feet, 4 inches x 11 inches

What does this piece represent?
Ninety percent of the estrogen in the environment is estimated to come from large livestock farms. An average dairy cow produces 250 milligrams of estrogen per day — roughly the hormone dosage for 1,000 postmenstrual women.

The construction:
This piece was inspired by the white fluffy padding found at the top a pill bottle. “Opening a new pill bottle implies the start or continuation of daily dosing,” said Roy. “That is, for me, one of the most concerning aspects of the continued accumulation of this potent chemical over time.”

Who we are

“My work explores how we relate to data and information — in a hopefully very human, tangible, visceral way,” said Roy. Here she explains the piece “Well Water 2:1” to an audience on the Investigative Reporting + Art tour.

The Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that’s increasing the quality and quantity of investigative reporting in Wisconsin, while training current and future generations of investigative journalists. Its work fosters an informed citizenry and strengthens democracy.

Carrie Roy works through complex data and ideas visually to create new modes and methods for integrative insights. She’s always trying to answer the question of how and why we use physical objects to convey the intangible. As part of her ph.D. dissertation she studied ancient sheep breed wool and felting traditions in Northern Europe, as well as woodworking, dating back to about 800 A.D.

All proceeds from the sale of this art will be split equally between Carrie Roy and the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism.

For pricing information please contact Andy Hall, the Center’s executive director, at

The nonprofit Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism ( collaborates with Wisconsin Public Radio, Wisconsin Public Television, other news media and the UW-Madison School of Journalism and Mass Communication. All works created, published, posted or disseminated by the Center do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of UW-Madison or any of its affiliates.

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